What does a protein skimmer do?

What does a protein skimmer do?


Protein skimmers are an essential component of marine and reef aquariums. They play a crucial role in maintaining water quality by removing organic compounds and other pollutants. In this article, we will dive deeper into the topic of protein skimmers, exploring their function, operation, and benefits.

How does a protein skimmer work?

A protein skimmer, also known as a foam fractionator, operates on the principle of foam fractionation. It utilizes a combination of air, water, and a collection cup to remove dissolved organic compounds from the aquarium water. The process begins with the injection of fine bubbles into the skimmer chamber. These bubbles rise through the water column, attracting and binding with organic molecules such as proteins, amino acids, and fatty acids.

As the bubbles ascend, they form a foam layer at the top of the skimmer chamber. This foam contains the accumulated organic compounds, which are then collected in a collection cup. The collection cup can be easily removed and emptied, effectively removing the organic waste from the aquarium system.

Benefits of using a protein skimmer

Improved water quality: Protein skimmers are highly effective at removing organic compounds that contribute to poor water quality. By eliminating these compounds, skimmers help maintain optimal water conditions for the health and well-being of the aquarium inhabitants.

Reduced nutrient levels: Organic compounds, such as proteins and amino acids, serve as nutrients for undesirable algae and bacteria. By removing these compounds, protein skimmers help reduce nutrient levels in the water, minimizing the risk of algae blooms and promoting a healthier aquarium environment.

Enhanced gas exchange: The process of foam fractionation in protein skimmers also promotes efficient gas exchange. As the bubbles rise through the water column, they create turbulence and increase the surface area available for gas exchange. This helps to oxygenate the water and remove excess carbon dioxide, benefiting the aquarium’s inhabitants.

Choosing the right protein skimmer

When selecting a protein skimmer for your aquarium, several factors should be considered. The size of your aquarium, the bioload (the amount of waste produced by the inhabitants), and the type of filtration system you have in place are all important considerations.

It is crucial to choose a protein skimmer that is appropriately sized for your aquarium. An undersized skimmer may not effectively remove all the organic waste, while an oversized skimmer may create unnecessary turbulence and noise. Additionally, consider the ease of maintenance and the quality of construction when making your decision.


Protein skimmers are vital tools for maintaining water quality in marine and reef aquariums. By effectively removing organic compounds and reducing nutrient levels, they contribute to a healthier and more stable aquarium environment. When choosing a protein skimmer, consider the specific needs of your aquarium to ensure optimal performance.


– LiveAquaria.com
– MarineDepot.com
– Reef2Reef.com